Phonics and Spelling

It has taken me a few years to figure out how to effectively teach phonics and spelling to my second graders. I have tried everything from using the lists prescribed by our curriculum to creating my own spelling lists based on patterns. The most effective strategy I have found so far is creating my own spelling lists based on patterns. My students learn spelling "rules" best when they are taught each rule directly. The students also tend to learn faster and retain better when they have multiple exposures to the spelling patterns.

I always start the year with a diagnostic test. I use this test to determine what skills my students have already mastered, and what skills are lacking. I use the results of the diagnostic testing to determine the differentiation I will use with my class.

I have always taught the inclusion ESE class. My class population ranges from students who are non readers, to gifted students who read on a fourth grade level by the end of the year. Because of the wide range of ability in my classroom, differentiation has been the key to success. Differentiating spelling has scared many of my colleagues, but it is really not very difficult to manage as long as you have set routines in place. You can start small and use as much or as little differentiation as you are comfortable with.

Minimal Differentiation:

Start by giving all students the same core spelling list and teaching all spelling/ phonics lessons to the whole class. From there, simply make accommodations for your below and above level students. Accommodations can include cutting down spelling lists. Some of my special needs students would only get 5-10 words per week. These students would still participate in all class lessons and activities in which we worked on all of the words, because it was my hope they would still begin to internalize the spelling patters which applied to all words on the master list.

Whole class lessons include activities such as sorting the words, doing word finds in independent reading books, having class discussions about words, playing games, and completing practice pages such as the ones found in my spelling and phonics packet. Even if my class has the same core spelling list, I make a point to meet with my lowest struggling readers at least 2-3 times per week to review the words and provide extra practice.

The benefits of giving students the same core list is that some of your low students will rise to the occasion and be successful with a difficult list that they might not otherwise be pushed to learn. It also makes classroom management and planning easier, because every student is doing the same thing at the same time. The negative side of using the same core list is some of your low and high students will not get the most out of your teaching.

Differentiated Spelling Lists:

Typically, I use the diagnostic to split my students into 2-3 groups based on their phonics skill level. I do NOT recommend having more than three groups, because too many groups becomes hard to manage and may be difficult for you to give enough attention and support to each group. When I have three groups, I break them up between low, medium, and high or on level. I come up with names for each group so that the students to know when it is time to meet with me and to prevent labeling issues. It is very important to make sure you have a schedule so the students know the routine and expectations, which prevents behavior management issues and wasting time. My schedule is similar to the one below:

To Purchase the bundle that includes all first and second grade phonics skills go here:

(I recommend this bundle if you have a wide range of levels in your class)


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